The station wagon has been around for a long time.
In fact, so much time has passed that a vintage station wagon has gone through peaks and valleys of coolness in the world of well-seasoned car guys.
The station wagon was a necessary evil during a bygone era when it meant its occupants had abandoned all hope of coolness on their way to a kiddie sporting event or supermarket.
A station wagon was a practical solution to a suburban transportation problem when it was king of the ‘Burbs and few wagon owners were concerned about their image as a trendsetter.
A station wagon could haul people and groceries with ease, even though some of the wagon’s younger car guy occupants yearned for the day when they could make their own choices in horsepower, shortened roof lines, and an urgent need for much cooler transportation.
The Beach Boys and other surf punks made the station wagon cool for a short period of time in the early 1960s when they included the Woodie wagon in song. These vintage (even in the early Sixties) station wagons were very affordable and offered a long roof for surf board transportation.
The surfers were cool and they had enough actual lumber in their structure to be considered legitimate wood/metal hybrids, thus the Woodie nickname for the famous station wagons.
The Woodie station wagons were largely built pre/post war and now command a huge buck because of their unique construction, however they were not able to sustain the popularity of the station wagon for young car guys during the 1960s.
The Big Three’s 1960s and ‘70s station wagons attempted to imitate the Woodies but their fake wood on the side of the new wagons did nothing on the coolness front for young car guys at the time. The grim truth is the wagons did not get cooler when the Brady Bunch used a station wagon in their TV show.
Young car guys were easily able to ignore Marcia Brady’s flaws but they were unable to ignore the flaws of a station wagon choice for this TV family.
Eventually young car guys became old car guys and the station wagon was replaced by the minivan as the family transportation vehicle. Absence may indeed make the heart grow fonder because the station wagon virtually disappeared from the road and older car guys began to miss their childhood chariot.
Station wagon hell had indeed forced young car guys to abandon all hope of coolness when their parents bought a long roof all those years ago, but now the cars were rare and carried good childhood memories.
The station wagons represented a time when families traveled together during summer vacations and these big cars were able to carry big people, little people, and all of their luggage to their favorite summer place.
Some of the station wagons offered two views of the road: in front of them-or behind them, depending upon the seating arrangement in the long roofs. Either way, the station wagons were filled with memories for car guys and their disappearance meant a surprising pang of regret for the car guys.
Station wagons finally become cool in their own right because they were a time machine to the past for older car guys. The wagons’ rarity in the 21st century and the car guys’ newly-discovered emotional attachment to the long roofs has also made them a valuable commodity in the car hobby.
Nobody who rode in a station wagon as a kid would have believed these then-unloved cars would have become so cool in the future.
BY: Jim Sutherland
Jim Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer whose work has been published by many major print and online publications. The list includes Calgary Herald, The Truth About Cars, Red Deer Advocate, RPM Magazine, Edmonton Journal, Montreal Gazette, Windsor Star, Vancouver Province, and Post Media Wheels Section.
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